I’ve previously pondered whether differing cultures with their differing ideals that may or may not be instilled by differing governments might play a part in the differing perceptions on funding. To be clear, I haven’t written about this pondering for fear of being accused of -isms. However, today, I’ve been looking at these differences another way.
I’ve been dabbling in Bitcoin since I first read about it in 2011. My interest was based on a desire to have and protect freedom and independence more than anything else. In my mind, a decentralized peer-to-peer currency is ideal for this. However, unless all aspects remain decentralized, freedom and independence can quickly go by the wayside. Since I’m the one writing, I’ll classify the people who feel that decentralized peer-to-peer currency is the very definition of Bitcoin and the number one priority as “us” for purposes of this writing. It’s easy for me to understand this viewpoint because we share it.
It’s not quite as easy to define “them.” What I can tell you is that their number one priority lies elsewhere. They could be investors, they could be speculators, they could be inventors, but their concerns are more selfish for lack of a better word. For them, ends like income are more important than our ideals. Given the more vague description of them, it stands to reason that there is more than one “them.”
Obviously there are plenty of people that fall elsewhere on the cryptocurrency spectrum. Most importantly, the users. Users generally have no reason to be directly involved in this battle until/unless they are campaigned into it. The potential that “us” and “them” could be definable as exemplified above dawned on me while I was reading “Who would I choose?” It dawned on me because it became crystal clear there are parties other than “us” and “them.” If this epiphany has any basis in reality, though, users are currently being treated like pawns in the funding battle. In reality, both sides want adoption, and users can choose whichever token(s) they desire (including tokens on completely unrelated chains), but when it comes to the battle over developer funding, the needs of users are clearly secondary to the desires of at least one side.
Unfortunately, “us” vs “them” and the conundrum for users that goes along with it seem to be a repeating theme on a relatively short historical cycle. For instance, compare these next two scenarios:
First there was BTC, and we were ecstatic. Next centralized organizations were formed, but it seemed like those were policed well enough until it became apparent that they had ulterior motives. This became apparent when they started claiming to be authoritative (“Bitcoin Core is the official node and all other nodes are altcoins”) and inventing problems (“everyone needs to be able to run Bitcoin Core on every device on every Internet connection” [not a real problem because SPV wallets already existed and were even discussed in the original whitepaper]) which would allow them to provide non-solutions (“segwit allows us to save space by removing the proof out of the blocks that everybody needs to have” [without proof, why does everyone need the blocks to begin with?]) that would allow them to siphon funds (“the lightning network will allow for cheap and instant transactions” [that require fees paid to centralized entities other than the miners]).
Then there was BCH, and we were ecstatic. Unfortunately, a centralized organization was deemed “reference,” but it seemed like that organization was cooperating with “competing” organizations until it became apparent they had ulterior motives. This became apparent when they started claiming to be authoritative (“Bitcoin ABC is the reference node and all other nodes must support whatever Bitcoin ABC chooses”) and inventing problems (“Bitcoin ABC is the reference node and nobody is paying for it to exist; BCH is going to cease to exist if we don’t fix this”) that would allow them to siphon funds (“N% of the coinbase must be sent to address XYZ by the miners or the block is invalid”).
Here’s the thing, miners invest in hardware, utilities, connectivity, etc. Miners make these investments in pursuit of income in the form of tokens from the block rewards and fees. We understand that. Whether by circumventing or taxing the miners, they seem to think they should get a cut of this income even though they didn’t share in the expenses required to produce it. The design of Bitcoin requires the miners Proof of Work to provide security that can’t be easily overcome, and this security is provided in a free market. We understand that. Whether by sidestepping future fee income or taxing current block and fee income, they seem to think they should get a cut of this income even though taking the cut will reduce the amount of security provided by the free market. Sound money in the form of decentralized peer-to-peer currency requires fungibility and intercompatibility. We understand that. For that reason, we never pushed hard fork improvements out on the BTC chain (software which could did exist on occasion, but it was never used to push out a forking block) because we didn’t want a hashwar. It was difficult for us to implement replay protection in order to break free from BTC, but after years of false promises and stalled progress, we did it. Subsequently, they created various worthless splits without replay protection that could only be to make a quick buck or cause confusion. Then they managed to pull the same stunt more effectively with BSV and the problems with competing chains without replay protection became obvious. In spite of these points, they are willing to push through another hard fork that treats all other nodes as incompatible without replay protection in hopes that we will back down. So far, it looks like we are standing our ground, but at least equally importantly, it looks like we are sticking to our ideals. So far, we aren’t planning on treating their blocks as invalid because doing so would go against our ideals. Unfortunately, this makes our battle tougher, but if we win, it continues to prove that decentralized peer-to-peer currency may be possible, and that matters.
I was hopeful that history wouldn’t repeat itself because the miners that fall into the “them” category stayed on the BTC chain for the income and the miners who fall into the “us” category moved to BCH for decentralized peer-to-peer currency. I’m still hopeful. There’s a lot of noise, but unless ABC concedes, we won’t really know who won until after the scheduled fork. If the miners of BCH are on BCH for decentralized peer-to-peer currency, they won’t be mining with ABC after the fork in spite of any emotions regarding ABC and what they have done for us in the past.
There are plenty of theories out there suggesting that many of the various “them” entities are controlled by the same hand(s), and if those theories are correct, all manner of hashpower could show up against us. That isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility, but supposing each “them” entity has self-corrupted or simply had individual motivation, the amount of hashpower behind ABC after the fork should be minimal. In that scenario, decentralized peer-to-peer currency is proving itself again.
What about everyone else? If decentralized peer-to-peer currency proves itself again, then everyone else may be a little bit discouraged by the infighting, but hopefully they’ll be encouraged by the resiliency as well. If yet another seriously competing fork emerges, well, history will probably keep repeating, and users who have more and more different tokens to keep track of may be more and more discouraged. Users who rely on exchanges and custodial wallets that don’t support each split certainly will be as well. The experiment with decentralized peer-to-peer currency might even be coming to an end accordingly, but it will have been an experiment worth performing, and many of the great ideas and inventions that came from it can almost certainly live on in not-so-decentralized versions of blockchains.